Brendon Feeney has lost count of the number of tattoos he has on his body -‘loads’ he says, ‘I’ve no idea.’ But he knows exactly where the last two tattoos are and exactly why he had them.
Working for the homeless charity, Turning Tides, based in Worthing, Brendon has taken a trip to his local hospital many a time, to pick up people being discharged from hospital but with nowhere to go home to.
Twenty-two years Brendon’s been doing that job, but all those journeys to his local hospital did nothing to take his phobia of the place away.
On September 13, he had to go back to Worthing A&E. But this time it wasn’t to pick anyone up – it was to get himself checked out.
And what he thought might be a torn muscle, turned out to be much more serious. Three kidney stones, and much worse, colon cancer.
Brendon, 54, picks up the story.
“I have a massive phobia of hospitals, blood tests, and injections. You wouldn’t think it, I’ve got loads of tattoo’s all over me – face, neck, hands, arms, chest, back – but I am petrified of hospitals.
“But I was in severe pain and thought it was a pulled muscle or tear so I went to A&E they did a scan and found a tumour in my bowel as well as kidney stones.
“The diagnosis sent my anxiety through the roof but luckily I was part of the Enhanced Recovery Programme (ERP) under Jayne Mundy – and the care they provided for me was so great, from changing the time of the operation from afternoon to morning to manage my stress levels to letting my partner, Jane, stay with me as long as possible.”
Brendon had the operation to remove part of his bowel on September 13 and it was a success. A month later he was back in for another op, this time on Friday 13 October, to remove the kidney stones.
“This went really well too. I was so lucky to have had a dream team looking after me formed of the nicest bunch of health care professionals a scared person could wish for.
“I really wanted to pass on how amazing this was for someone who was seriously thinking I just can’t go in to hospital and was at the point of just ignoring it and not going through with it at all, regardless of the consequences.
“They called NHS staff “heroes” during covid well they were before that and they still are and the staff at Worthing are amazing.”
Brendon has now got a permanent reminder of the care he had at Worthing, and the battle with cancer he is fighting. On his right wrist he has tattooed ‘ERP’ with a number of stars around the three letters – ‘because the people looking after me were stars’ – and he has a colon ribbon, next to this, with the words ‘I will win’ alongside.
“I feel I’ve been marginalised in the past. I feel people just see a man with loads of tattoos and gold but not at Worthing. I wanted to put a tattoo where everyone can see it – on my wrist – so if anyone ever asks what it means, I can tell them of my story and of the ERP team at Worthing.”
UHSussex Chief Nurse, Maggie Davies said: “We always want every patient to have the very best experience and outcome and it is really pleasing to hear such positive and kind feedback from Brendon. I hope he continues in his recovery.”